What We’re Up to In Our Homeschool – Curriculum We Use
One thing about homeschoolers is that each family has its own style. Some people have quite a structure/routine to their homeschool; some people unschool and support and follow the passions and interests of their kids. Our days are fairly loose, but we follow fairly traditional subjects. Homeschoolers often fall into different categories… Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Classical, or use online-curriculums. I would say we are eclectic, hands-on homeschoolers — meaning we use lots of different types of materials/curriculums/books and try to make our learning interactive when possible.
We have a rhythm to our day, but each day is different from the other. Usually ED and I are up first. I read to her while she eats; she reads to me after we’ve made a fire in the woodstove. And then by that time, the other kids are up and reading on their own while eating breakfast. It’s often not until 10:30 or so that we start in on our other subjects. In general our schoolwork takes us about two hours to four hours (two for my youngest, closer to four for my older two), but we’re quick to seize other opportunities when they arise.
I get asked a lot what curriculum we use. Since it has been a while since I’ve done an overview of what we’re covering, I thought I would do that while also highlighting some of the books and curriculum that have been useful for us this year. I probably spend more than I “should” on curriculum. Sigh… Our saving grace is that I almost always buy things used (especially from Homeschool Classifieds.) Oh and if you are a regular reader, then you already know we also make/create a lot of our own materials for our units in history and science and check a lot of books out from the library!
And just so you know before you start reading, my kids are now 10, 8 and just-turned 6.
We have tried a number of different math curriculums over the years (Singapore Math, Saxon Math, Mammoth Math), but we keep coming back to the Spectrum Math workbooks as our spine. We use it in a funny way–I mark off a few problems from a number of different pages bouncing all around the book. (So, they usually do a bit of multiplication, division, addition and/or subtraction and a few problems from whatever new concept they are learning such as long division, fractions, decimals). I supplement with other resources as well.
LD: Spectrum Math 6; Geometry 4-5 (by Carson-Dellosa) – We did the first half last year; he’s now working on the second half. He’s also reading through a fun set of math books by the Art of Problem Solving called Beast Academy (4A). I asked LD what he thought of it. He said that it is a math comic book. It was good review and covered a few things that he didn’t already know. He said it was a good secondary book. That was his input. They were $15 each (not including the practice books), but since all three of my kids will read through them I felt the price was worth it.
DD: Spectrum Math 4; Primary Grade Challenge Math – DD really is enjoying the problems from this book. She is also reading through Beast Academy (3A). (It has just been lying around on the kitchen table and they pick it up to read whenever they want. The kids enjoy the comic style.) I asked DD if she would recommend it to other kids. She said, “Well, yeah… and then she launched into a five minute explanation about the comic books… whenever this blue guy pops up… he’s a evil bad guy and you have to figure out these math problems to try and stop him…” So, there you go!
ED: Much of the year, ED was doing worksheets that I made for her and pages I pulled out of some workbooks we had on hand, games and Montessori math activities. About a month ago, she begged for her own Spectrum Math book (since the other two use it daily)– so she just started Spectrum Math 2. She’ll continue to sit down and play lots of math games with me and we’ll continue on with some of the Montessori-style math.
This is related to math, but we do this as a separate subject that we call Math Circles. We absolutely LOVE the fun problems and challenges in Math Circle Diaries. The kids beg for more time! They say it’s really fun and is often their favorite time of day. We also use a book from the Critical Thinking Company called Building Thinking Skills sometimes. DD has also been enjoying Sudoku problems. A First Sudoku book is a great place to start (1-4). Sudoku Puzzles for Kids has numbers 1-6. We have a number of other critical thinking books (analogies and so forth), but haven’t been using them lately. I’ll highlight them at another point when we get back into those. ED doesn’t participate in these usually.
We read a lot! We have several books that we are reading aloud. I am reading the Voyage of the Dawn Treader aloud to all three (we read one chapter at lunch). And for our China unit, we are reading a wonderful novel called Bound aloud together. In the evening I’ve been reading Farmer Boy to ED and DD. Meanwhile, Hubby is reading the Harry Potter series aloud with the kids.
The kids also do a lot of independent reading. ED just finished her phonics series, so I set up our book display area for her to select books for independent reading time. A number of years ago, I bought a huge lot of Hello Readers and easy readers from ebay. (Today on ebay, for example, I saw a lot of 52 Hello Readers for $9.99). I rotate those little books in that short/small red book display area. (I made that red book display a few years ago!)
A couple of weeks ago, I went onto ebay and won a bid on 65 Newbery-Award winning books for a little less than $1.00 each! Now I just have to find a new home for these. (In the meantime while they’re a mess on the floor, the kids have browsed through and each ran away with a couple of books in their hands!)
I make up our own grammar sheets based on some of the mistakes/problems I see in their writing. We also have the Write Source Skillsbooks that we use every now and then; they cover grammar, not writing. For a while we were using Editor in Chief pretty regularly, but haven’t used them lately. We really love All About Spelling, but have only made small steps forward recently. ED is the one making the most progress in All About Spelling. She’ll often pull out the book and hand it to me to do a lesson! She’s in level 1.
For the past couple of months the kids have spent 10 minutes/day at the beginning of our writing workshop reading the Write Source Student Textbook. I was surprised at how much they enjoyed the student text. Both kids said it covered some really useful information about writing: the writing process (pre-writing and outlining through publishing) and writing traits (ideas, organization, voice, etc.). LD just finished the entire book today (Feb. 19); DD is about half-way through.
This year we started a writing workshop. I’ve been doing a lot of posts on that lately. I’ve been trying to put together some of the first mini-lessons that helped us get started. Look for that early next week.
We started a little poetry unit as well. More about that soon.
We finished our Civil Rights Movement Unit. The past couple of weeks we started a new unit on China. I’ll be sharing a lot more about that soon (including all the books we’re using as well as some free printable resources).
We’ve added a bit more writing into our history units this year… and I’m also introducing the kids to some basic pointers about note-taking and stuff. (For my older two, that is.)
ED has been doing a unit on animals (lots of Montessori-type activities). I have quite a number of printables to share with you (coming soon).
We’ll be doing unit on Weather/Water… We’ll begin the unit with the layers of the atmosphere. I have the unit (and packet) all planned out, but I’m not sure quite when we’ll start that.
We’re still primarily using the Bobo books. We also have a German grammar book that I bought, but we haven’t really jumped into that enough to recommend it one way or the other.
The kids are still learning pieces on the piano. LD is learning a simplified version of Moonlight Sonata that I really love! The book he’s using is called A First Book of Beethoven:Favorite Pieces in Easy Piano Arrangement.
One of the best reasons to homeschool is the flexibility we have as a family. It allows the kids to work at their own pace. We’re able to travel and take trips when we want to. Unfortunately, this year we’ve had to be flexible for the worst reasons… health. In a little less than two weeks I’ll be going in for my third ear surgery in four months. I have been suffering through dizziness, balance issues, vision problems, noise sensitivity (even to my own voice. Augh!), pulsating tinnitus (I hear drilling noises or jingle bells or SHHhing noises all day and all night) and ear aches. I haven’t been able to drive for over a month. 🙁 I’ve had to modify what we do so that I don’t have to move around quite as much (thus lots of reading, not so much in the science-experiment/hands-on area). I have a big community of friends who’ve helped out enormously — driving the kids to their activities and bringing our family meals. I’m hoping that the March 4th surgery will fix all my issues (if not, I’ll have to have a more drastic/difficult 4th surgery at some point after that).
So that’s our homeschool in a nutshell at this moment in time. Different things work in different seasons of our homeschool. At some point soon, I hope to go on a ton of field trips and outings… museums, hiking, concerts… all the things we haven’t been able to do recently because of my ears! Then we’ll pack away these books and focus on a different area/way of learning!
- Our Week’s Round-up(8, 6, 4)
- The Realities of Homeschooling (8, 6, 4) – This post was quite popular when I first put it up!!
You might enjoy this post from when my kids were 6, 4 and 22 months: